For more than two decades, a petite grandmother of five has challenged Miami Lakes councilmembers about their decisions, adherence to the town charter or on plans that she feels are headed in the wrong direction.
Mirtha Mendez, 76, while often lugging a hefty binder filled with notes, is a regular presence at the podium during the public comment phase of town meetings.
And it’s not always pretty.
“Sometimes I have to step on toes,” Mendez said, though she says her remarks made toward councilmembers are not personal.
Councilman Luis Collazo, who years ago volunteered with Mendez on the Elderly Affairs Committee, proposed during the Jan. 10 council meeting that the podium be named for her.
Collazo called Mendez “a steward of the town” and said he respects her.
“I know we may not always agree,” Collazo said.
Mendez admits that sometimes she is wrong and said sometimes she is right.
But she’s always there.
“I don’t do this to fight the town,” Mendez said. “It’s for the peace of mind.”
Supporters called her “the sage of Miami Lakes,” “tenacious” and an “incredible inspiration.”
“That was so touching, that’s why I didn’t speak at the meeting. I didn’t ask for it,” Mendez said.
Councilman Josh Dieguez recalled seeing Mendez at a meeting when he was in high school.
“She had that fury that still exists,” Dieguez said.
Though Mendez said she was touched by the recognition, she downplayed the designation for the podium.
“It’s a piece of moveable furniture,” Mendez said.
Miami Lakes Mayor Manny Cid, Vice Mayor Carlos O. Alvarez and Councilman Tony Fernandez opposed the measure; Collazo, Dieguez and Councilmembers Ray Garcia and Marilyn Ruano approved it.